Short term rental owner files class action lawsuit against Metro Nashville

Posted at 8:29 PM, Feb 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-11 23:39:10-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — There are a lot of issues baked into a 35-page federal class-action lawsuit filed Thursday by an attorney for Layton Jones, a short-term rental owner in Nashville.

Much of the lawsuit centers around a Metro Nashville law that says those who run short term rental homes without a Metro permit face a "waiting period of three years" before they can apply for a new permit.

Jones' attorney argues that those three-year waiting period orders are usually given not an elected judge, but by an un-elected Environmental Court "Referee" -- a power that Jones' attorney Bryant Kroll says those referees don't have.

"Can an environmental court referee who's not an elected judge even issue an injunction? We think that answer is no," Kroll said. "Even of a general sessions court, the ability of a judge to issue that injunction is doubtful, doubtful in that we can't find any law that says that they can."

The lawsuit also accuses Metro of what it calls "stacking charges."

The lawsuit says even though a codes officer knew Jones had violated the short term rental permit law before, "Metro's legal department instructed him to wait until numerous violations had accrued for the purpose of bringing criminal contempt proceedings."

And the lawsuit alleges when Jones was arrested for criminal contempt, presiding judge Allegra Walker forced Jones to stay behind bars by saying, "no bail," and then walking off the bench.

Jones' attorney says for a misdemeanor like criminal contempt, the judge was required to set a bail.

"The ironic part about this was there were violent criminals in there with Mr. Jones who were able to post bail more quickly than he could, and for cheaper," Kroll said.

After the lawsuit was filed, Metro's legal director Bob Cooper said his office needed more time to review it before commenting.